Christmas at Mother and PaPa’s

There are six siblings in this family. We called my father Daddy. He was given the name PaPa (pronounced “Pawpaw”) by my first child who was their first grandchild. The matriarch in the family was known as Mother by all- children, grandchildren, and children in laws and their brothers, sisters and family members. Thus; the above title.

Christmas was always a very exciting time. Everyone would look forward to the day of celebration. My mother and grandmother would spend the day preparing the meal, along with desserts. No one allowed. When the main meal was prepared only my mother and grandmother were allowed in the kitchen unless you were given a specific assignment. The kitchen would sometimes become no man’s land. But as they got older they began to mellow and would allow at least their granddaughters into the kitchen to help cook all of our favorite holiday foods which is how Judith, one of my daughters learned the recipes and to this day continues to use them. The other would make cookies. She had tin cans that she would fill with her cookies and send them to relatives. They would come back empty later in the year with a note to refill. She also would make a pound cake from a recipe given to her by a former sister in law that she still makes today. We all called her Grangran. She died this year at the age of 102.

Presents were stacked under the tree so high that they would reach nearly half way up the tree. We are speaking of a tree that usually stood at least 6 ft, high. It was always a cut tree, no pretend ones allowed. Kristi said that she also remembers always being amazed at how large and full the Christmas tree was every year. Papa usually had to cut the top off so that it could fit just so in the front room. Who can forget the shiny glass ornaments that seemed to survive the hustle and bustle of everyone in the house? The living room and den consisted of one long room and seemed to be packed from front to end with gifts. There were those of us who lived in New Orleans, where they lived. There were other family members who traveled from other areas of the country to be a part of the celebration. We enjoyed the house being packed with family especially when we had aunts, uncles, and cousins come from out of town. We even had to pick up one of mother’s friends. There was always a debate on who would go get her because she was not one of our favorite people. Mother considered her a friend but her children had difficulty listening to her bragging about her connections with someone who really was connected. So one of us went and picked her up. To make mother happy we just endured her. And now that we are older it wasn’t so bad. When it was time for the meal and even though there was a dining room with table and chairs there were so many adults that we covered a pool table that was in the den. It was pulled away from the bar and plywood laid over it, setup with tablecloth and the holiday china, chairs were found from everywhere so the adult family could sit on all four sides.

The younger folks were relegated to the dining room and the door pulled. That door was the barrier between calm and chaos.We sat down for dinner and the table was blessed. We were allowed our drink of choice with our meal. We could have a glass of wine if we were old enough or wine diluted with seven up – mostly seven up – if we were not old enough. The younger kids truly enjoyed this and looked forward to it. On one occasion daddy – who usually waited to the last minute to purchase the wine – waited too long to make the purchase, so he bought the same brand with a higher alcohol concentration (twice). Not being someone who drank frequently, he didn’t realize there was a difference. But two of his sons did. They were smiling at each other. Later when daddy asked them what they were smiling about they explained. He just looked at them and shook his head. They thought no wonder everyone seemed a little happier at dinner that day.After dinner was done everybody filled the living and dining room for gift opening time and the piano recitals.”Playing Santa” every year was at least as much fun for us as opening our gifts. We always enjoyed being one of the people taking all the overflowing gift boxes from under the tree and delivering them to everyone. Most of the gifts were unique.- hand made crochet quilts from my older sister, which everyone loved. But there was a year when makeup caboodles were popular. So after much deliberation with my children we thought giving it would be nice to give one of my nieces a caboodle. To our surprise she had already been given at least one at another Christmas celebration. She was so excited about opening her gift. But when she opened it her comment was “another caboodle”. Our choice of gifts was after all not unique. She was the same little lady who was told many months before Christmas to stay in her room until she apologized.

After a lot of screaming and yelling she admitted she didn’t know what apologize “means” She was barely three years old. What was odd was when my brothers and husband purchased a race track for my son when he was barely able to walk. They all had remote control cars. His fun was watching them race their cars around the track. Somehow their fun was watching him watching them and he was very happy with that. And who can forget all of us, being led by Judy, making homemade egg nog. Separating eggs, whipping the whites until the fork stood at attention which was like an exciting science experiment that was rewarded at the end with the creaminess of the final product and Sandra’s baking sweet potato pies once when they could get into the kitchen.

Wow. How great were the holidays at Mother’s and Papas? It was a memorable time for all of us.

Submitted by Janet Brown


I want to thank David, Judy, Kristi, and Lisa for their input helping me with writing this article.

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